LAWRENCE R. DION
Lawrence R (Larry) Dion passed away Saturday, April 6, 2013 at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami. Larry was born in North Adams, Mass. on Nov. 10, 1921. He was the fifth of seven children of Joseph Dion and Victoria Saulnier Dion.
He attended Notre Academy and graduated from Drury High School in North Adams.
In 1934, the family came to Key West for a year at the encouragement of Alfred (Fred) Dion, who was already residing here. Larry attended St. Joseph's School that year. After graduation he attended vocational school and moved to Long Island City, N.Y. to work at Ford Instruments.
Larry enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942, and began training as a gunner, navigator and eventually as a pilot of P38s and later the B-17 Flying Fortress. Larry was stationed in North Africa and later in Fogia, Italy. During his flight training in Iowa and Nebraska, he met his wife of 57 years, Florence Lorane Knepper, whom he corresponded with throughout the war. At the end of World War II, Larry piloted his B-17 back to West Palm Beach, then to Key West, where his mother and most of his siblings were already living. He then headed to Iowa and brought Flo back home. They wed at St. Mary Star of the Sea on Feb. 15, 1946. Larry and Flo both worked hard at his sister Gert's drug store and soda fountain in Poinciana Plaza. He pedaled ice cream sandwiches to the military bases, and supplied all the vending machines in Key West.
As ambitious risk takers, the Dions took over the Sinclair Oil Co. contract in 1948 and thus began Dion Oil Co. Over the years, they supplied many commercial accounts and service stations with gas, diesel, lubes and TBA. They bought sites, built stations and were suppliers of many different brands of fuel. In 1952, Larry opened Dion Appliance & Tire Supply at 825 Duval St., and owned shrimp boats in the 1970s.
In the 1970s during the energy crisis, the Dion family, now including daughter Suzanne and son Roger, made the leap to become the first convenience store chain in Monroe County. Eventually branching out into Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties during the 1980s and 1990s, the Dions owned and operated more than 20 locations while expanding their commercial business. Now Dion's operates a dozen sites as Dion's Quik Marts from Naranja to Key West and leases out others.
Larry continued his military career in the Air Force reserves, where he retired as a Major. He never gave up his love of flying, great food, driving fast and a good cigar.
Larry was predeceased by son Roger and wife Flo. He married longtime friend Janae Spencer in 2011. He is also survived by his daughter Suzanne and son-in-law David Banks, numerous nieces and nephews, and the many employees of Dion's, his legacy.
Dean Lopez Funeral Home is handling arrangements. Viewing will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at Dean Lopez, 418 Simonton St., Key West, followed by funeral mass and celebration of life at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, 1010 Windsor Lane, and interment at the Key West Cemetery. The family has requested donations be made to the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Larry's memory.